Families play a fundamental role in shaping children’s interest and skills in math. Schools can help connect the math that exists both in and out of school and nurture families’ positive relationship to math. Teachers can share a variety of fun and engaging activities such as games that children learn at school. Teachers can also learn from families about how they use math in their everyday lives at home. Families are perfectly situated to talk about quantities, shapes, and sizes in meaningful contexts. When parents ask children about these ideas and support their thinking through the use of open-ended questions, math learning can happen anywhere families are–in the kitchen, at the park, or in the grocery store.
Here, a team of preschool teachers and the principal at a Chicago public school discuss a family math event designed to engage parents with the math their children are learning. Parents are invited to stay at school after drop-off. First, parents learn about developmentally appropriate math content and ways to promote positive math interactions at home. This is important since the teaching of mathematics looks different from the instruction that most adults experienced when they were in school. For example, teachers share information about the importance of finger counting and that it is something to encourage. Next, parents join their children in games and activities that the children know from school. Families leave with a goody bag containing engaging math materials such as cards, dice, and counting songs to take home. Teachers also hope that parents take home the message that math is everywhere, and that families have all the tools they need to play, explore, and talk about math with their child, in whatever language they may use at home.